Even if you’re not going to be driving for a while and you want to avoid paying for coverage, you can’t exactly pause your car insurance. However, some companies may allow you to suspend your liability coverage if you’re putting your car in storage — as long as your lender allows it.
Not all car insurance companies offer car storage insurance though, and if you can’t suspend or drop coverage, canceling it altogether may seem like the next best option. But canceling your auto insurance policy altogether can leave a lapse on your record, which means you’ll pay more for car insurance in the future.
Pausing your auto insurance
You technically can’t “pause” or “freeze” your auto insurance — it’s required by law in almost every state. The only way to pause your auto insurance is to cancel your coverage in its entirety, which you should only do when you’re switching policies or getting rid of your car.
Some insurers offer the option to suspend your liability coverage if you don’t anticipate using your vehicle for a month or longer — but you would still retain comprehensive coverage for the vehicle itself. Liability coverage is the coverage that covers the costs of damage or injury you cause with your car, and it’s necessary if you’re going to be driving.
But suspending liability coverage isn’t always an option, even if you are putting your car in storage for months: Your lienholder or lessor may require you to maintain a certain amount of coverage, in which case you couldn’t drop your liability coverage. And even if you’re driving less than usual, many insurers do not offer the option of suspending car insurance coverage.
If your car insurance company does allow you to downsize to comprehensive coverage, your liability coverage may be dropped temporarily. Comp-only coverage, also called car-storage insurance or seasonal vehicle insurance, protects your vehicle from non-driving perils like damage from fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects, malicious activity and extreme weather, and is a mandatory minimum if you wish to suspend or reduce your coverage. Reducing coverage to comp-only will not technically “pause” your auto insurance, but it will significantly lower your premiums.
If you decide to operate your car while your liability coverage is suspended (or while you have a lapse in coverage), you won’t be financially protected from medical expenses or property damage you cause with your car, and you risk fines and other consequences for driving uninsured.
There is generally no set time limit on how long you can suspend your liability coverage but you must restore your coverage before you begin driving your car again.
When to pause your car insurance
If you don’t plan on operating your vehicle for a while, you might be able to cut back on your liability coverage — if your insurance company allows it. You could pause, or heavily reduce your insurance, if:
Your car is in long-term storage
You’re traveling abroad
You’ve been deployed overseas
You’re unable to drive due to illness or injury
It may also be possible to suspend your insurance temporarily if you’re out of work and can’t pay your premiums, though it depends on the company. If you think you need to pause your insurance, talk to your company to find out about your options. Your insurance provider may suggest a payment plan or another option that still allows you to drive your car.
In any case, before you pause, suspend, or reduce your liability coverage, you may have to file an “affidavit of non-use” to notify your state’s DMV. You should also consult your lessor or loan holder to ensure that you don’t violate any prior financing agreements.
Pros and cons of suspending liability coverage
If you’re storing your car away for the foreseeable future and your insurer allows it, you can reap some long- and short-term benefits from suspending your liability coverage, but the decision comes with some cons to consider.
You won't have to pay for coverage you're not using
You assume the cost of all liabilities if you decide to operate your vehicle without liability coverage
Your vehicle is still protected from damage
Drivers with auto loans or leased vehicles may not be eligible for suspended coverage
You can avoid a lapse in coverage, sparing you from an increase in future rates
Insurance suspension is not offered by many auto insurers, in general
You'd probably be breaking the law by driving without liability insurance
What happens if you suspend your car insurance?
If you won’t be operating your vehicle for 30 days or more, you may be able to suspend your liability coverage, so you won’t be paying for that insurance while your car is not in use. However you should still keep comprehensive coverage to protect your vehicle from non-driving perils like fire, falling objects, vandalism and theft. Not every insurance company will allow you to suspend your liability coverage; this option may only be available for drivers who are putting their cars into storage and won’t be driving their vehicles at all.
Alternatives to suspending your car insurance
Looking for a way to lower your car insurance rates? Instead of suspending your liability coverage while your vehicle’s not in use, consider other options to lower your monthly car insurance costs.
1. Reduce coverage
Reducing your coverage can help you save money while you’re not driving. Try lowering your liability limits or removing add-ons like roadside assistance and collision insurance from your policy since you won’t be needing a tire change or postaccident repairs in the next month.
2. Switch to usage-based insurance
With usage-based insurance, you can pay for the miles you actually drive — so if you drive less, you’ll pay less. Some companies offer exclusively usage-based car insurance, but you can also lower your rates by enrolling in a usage-based or behavior-based program and allowing your insurance company to track your safe driving.
3. Remove yourself from coverage
If you’re on a shared policy, the primary named insured can remove you from the coverage which may remove your demographics from the averaged auto premium and lessen the costs. However you may not be able to drive the car once you’ve been removed from the policy.
4. Take advantage of every available discount
Most insurance companies offer a wide range of discounts. Make sure you’re getting every available option to save. Typical discounts include savings for students, and for certain professions, like nurses. You can also get discounts of up to 10% at most insurance companies for going paperless or by paying your annual premium in full. And safe drivers can save even more by having a clean record, or taking a defensive driving course. There are also low-mileage discounts if you’re driving much less than you used to. Check with your insurer to make sure that you’re getting every discount for which you qualify.
4. Shop around for cheaper car insurance
If your policy is up for renewal, or if you just want to find better rates, you can shop around for cheaper car insurance and secure the coverage you need at an affordable price. You may even be able to find the same coverage you have now at a cheaper rate by comparing quotes online or through an independent broker.
5. Cancel your policy
If you’re getting rid of your car, you can cancel your policy altogether. The process is simple, and can be completed online or over the phone. All you need to do is ask your insurance company about the process, sign and send a cancellation letter, and get a notice of your policy cancellation.